How Long Does Meats Last? Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation

Smoking Meats

Of course, meats lasts for a shorter period of time if it is not stored properly. But like a lot of other proteins, it usually has a sell by date which is simply the last date the store should sell the product, and not an expiration date for the product.

How to tell if meats is bad, rotten or spoiled?
Practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques will help prevent foodborne illness.

Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if your meats has gone bad. Some common traits of bad meats are a dull, slimy flesh and a sour smell. The pink meats color will begin changing to a grey color when meat has spoiled.

There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled foods so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your foods before their shelf life has expired!

How to store meats to extend its shelf life?
You can help keep it fresh longer by storing it in your refrigerator immediately after use. Once prepared, it should be stored in a tightly closed container to keep out moisture and other contaminants. For a long-term option, you can freeze your meats while preserving its taste if you use a freezer safe container.

Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

Interesting facts about meats:
Meats are either wet cured, dry cured, smoked, or aged. Thus they have a longer shelf life than fresh meats.
How to use extra before your Meats goes bad?
How long is Meats good for when prepared in a dish?
How long does meats last? That depends. How long do eggs last? Foods that have been mixed together in a recipe will expire according to the quickest expiring ingredient in the list.

In a future defined by increasingly expensive and/or scarce energy, food preservation skills will take on heightened importance. What if prolonged, unpredictable blackouts cause your refrigerated food to spoil frequently? Or rising inflation threatens to make tomorrow’s staples substantially higher than today’s?

Preserving Meat By Curing and Smoking

This article provides an introduction to the two most widespread techniques for preserving meat – curing and smoking – which have been practiced since ancient times. They’re often used in conjunction with each other. In this post, I’ll explain the basic science underlying each and how they enable you to vastly extend the storage life of your meats while eating healthier at the same time. We’ll end with a practical recipe that anyone can follow, regardless of prior experience in the kitchen.

For this exercise, we’re going to focus on everybody’s favorite meat: bacon.

I’ve always loved meat, and when I was finally ready to prepare meat at home, I decided that bacon was the perfect entry point into the world of smoked and cured meats. Bacon is all the rage, and personally, I’m all for it. I love bacon – there’s nothing quite like it. While it’s fatty, full of cholesterol, and no sane doctor would advocate eating it in large quantities on a recurring basis, it’s been firmly ingrained in the American diet for generations, eaten once out of necessity and now for pleasure and enjoyment. Most Americans are familiar with bacon, yet not everyone knows how to make it or where it even comes from. While there are many different variations of bacon around the world, the traditional American style of bacon that most of us are familiar with is prepared by curing and smoking pork belly.


At its most basic, to cure is simply to preserve in salt. In the days before refrigeration, curing meat and fish in salt was practically the only way to preserve those foods. Left to their own devices, bacteria contained within meat or fish will cause it to spoil and rot. By introducing salt, some of the water contained in the muscle fibers of the meat is expelled, thus creating a much less hospitable environment for bacteria to grow and multiply. (With the advent of today’s refrigeration technology, curing meat and fish has become less about preservation and more about harnessing its flavor-enhancing properties)

It is common to add other ingredients the curing process to complement and contrast the effects of salt. Sugar, for instance, is used to counterbalance salt and can add a unique flavor to the mix, especially sugars like honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Herbs and spices, like black pepper, bay leaves, and allspice, will also impart their own unique flavor to meat and fish during the curing process.

There are generally two methods for curing meat. In both cases, the flavor from the cure will come from salt and the variety of sugars, spices and herbs you choose to use:

  • Dry curing: A mixture of salt and other ingredients is rubbed over the meat.
  • Wet curing: Also known as brining, this involves submerging meat in a salty solution.

But before you start curing, there’s one final ingredient to include. Sodium nitrite, naturally occurring in green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and celery, is very useful for food preservation because it is one of the few compounds that will retard the growth of a particularly nasty bacterium called botulism. In addition, sodium nitrite will lend its own unique flavor to the meat and cause it to turn an appealing shade of bright red. Whether added in the form of celery juice (or some other leafy green vegetable extract), or by using ‘pink salt,’ a mixture of 93.75% table salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite, nitrites are toxic in high doses, so their addition to any curing formula must be handled carefully. As a result, the FDA has established strict guidelines for the amount of nitrites that can be added to cured meats. At these levels, it is perfectly safe to consume cured meats. A quick note: If you buy pink salt online or at a specialty store, be sure to ask for Curing Salt #1.

Why should I can my own meat?
If you’ve ever tried to buy food in bulk but realized you don’t have nearly enough freezer space, you’ll find that canning your own meat can be great for storage. There’s no need for freezing or refrigeration. Canning can also be great for when you want to give away food as gifts during the holidays. When you are canning meat products remember these things.


Food is smoked when it comes in contact with the smoke generated by smoldering wood, plant, and other organic material. Not to be confused with grilling – a relatively high-heat cooking process in which food is generally suspended over an open flame – smoking relies on indirect heat, low temperatures (180-225 degrees F), and long cooking times to produce food that is mouth wateringly tender and uniquely flavored. In the U.S., common smoke woods include hickory, oak, mesquite, apple, and cherry.

Historically, smoking was performed as a means of preserving food because the smoke itself acts like an acidic coating on the surface of the meat, preventing the growth of bacteria. The smoking process also helps to dehydrate the meat, again creating an environment that is less hospitable for bacteria to thrive in. Like curing, in modern times, smoking of food is done primarily as a way to enhance food’s flavor and color, rather than preserve it.

  • The advantages of smoking meat are numerous. Smoking:

    • Kills certain bacteria and slows down the growth of others.
    • Prevents fats from developing a rancid taste.
    • Prevents mold from forming on fermented sausages.
    • Extends shelf life of the product.
    • Improves the taste and flavor.
    • Changes the color; smoked meats shine and simply look better.

    Smoked fish develops a beautiful golden color. The meat on the outside becomes a light brown, red, or almost black depending on the type of wood used, heating temperatures, and total time smoking.

    The smell in an ethnic meat store specializing in smoked products can be overwhelming. This experience is not shared with our supermarkets since their products are rarely properly smoked and they are vacuum-sealed to prolong shelf life. Certain classical sausages are smoked for up to 3 days and in today’s era it is hard to imagine a manufacturer that will do that. To survive the frantic pace of today’s market, water is pumped into the meat, chemicals are added for aesthetic and preservation reasons, and smoking is virtually eliminated by adding liquid smoke. As long as the ingredients are not on the list of chemicals that present danger to us, the Food and Drug Administration does not care what goes into the meat. Taste plays a secondary role, as long as the price is good people will buy the product and supermarkets will keep renewing orders. Smoking to preserve meat’s keeping qualities is of less importance today because we can keep the product in a refrigerator or almost indefinitely in a freezer. Originally, curing and smoking was used solely for preservation purposes; today it’s done for the love of its flavor.

    Smoking may or may not be followed by cooking. Generally we may say that smoking consists of two steps:

    1. Smoking. Meats are usually cured before they are submitted to smoking.
    2. Cooking. This step determines the design and quality of your smokehouse as it needs temperature controls, a reliable heat supply and good insulation to hold the temperature when the weather gets cold. If cooking is performed outside the smokehouse, the unit can be incredibly simple, for example an empty cardboard box.

    After smoking is done we increase the temperature to about 170° F (76° C) to start cooking. The smoked meats must be cooked to 154° F (68° C) internal temperature and here the quality and insulation of the smoker plays an important role. Nevertheless, the main smoking process is performed below 160° F (71° C).

Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll find inside Old Time Wisdom:

You’ll discover the ancient meat preservation method that will make your mouth water. Enjoying the delicious sweet-smoky taste of beef, pork, or link sausages for months to come… without ANY refrigeration, chemicals, preservatives, or additives!

And you can prepare everything in your back-yard (or balcony) in one afternoon– I promise it will be more relaxing than taking the day off to go fishing.

You’ll also learn how to get rid of the toxic canned food from the supermarket… and preserve your own healthy & delicious vegetables and fruits. All you need is Granddad Bob’s secret canning trick to instantly kill bacteria and parasites…

Smokers come in all different shapes and sizes and can use many different types of fuel (charcoal, electricity, propane, etc.) to generate smoke. Some common backyard kettle grills can be lightly modified so that they function as smokers. There are also numerous MacGyver-esque ways to produce smoke using an oven or stove top. If you do purchase a stand-alone smoker, make sure you have outdoor space available.

We know now that the smoked meat must be cooked, but does that mean that it must be cooked inside of the smokehouse? Don’t we have wonderfully designed and factory built electrical or gas stoves inside every kitchen? They are insulated, have built-in temperature controls and are almost begging for these smoked sausages to be baked inside. How about putting your smoked meats into a pot full of hot water and cooking these products on top of the stove?

Traditionally smoked meats come almost always from cured parts of pork. The most popular large cuts used for smoking are ham, bacon, butt, loin, back fat and smaller parts such as hocks and jowls. Ribs are normally barbecued. Due to their large size those popular cuts require longer curing times although those times can be somewhat shortened when needle pumping precedes the common wet curing method. Hams can be dry or wet cured, butts and loins are normally wet cured and bacon and back fat are commonly dry cured. Trimmings end up for making sausages.

The Advantages of Preserving Your Own Meats

For many reasons, modern chefs and home cooks are embracing the idea of curing and smoking their own meats. For one, it is a great way to forge a stronger bond with your food, where it comes from, and how it’s made. More importantly, by doing your own curing and smoking, you are increasing your food resiliency while eating high-quality meat that contains little to no artificial ingredients.

Take bacon, for example: Much of the bacon consumed in this country is mass-produced in large manufacturing plants to take advantage of speed, distribution networks, and other economies of scale. Yet the curing process required to turn pork belly into bacon takes time. Rather than letting nature take its course, many manufacturers rely on mechanical and other shortcuts to speed up the curing process, choosing to pump the pork bellies with a salty brine containing phosphates to increase the moisture retention of the meat, thus improving yield for the manufacturer. Flavor is also often boosted by introducing MSG to the mix, and in some cases the actual smoking of bacon is even replaced by introducing liquid smoke into the curing mix. 

I started making bacon at home in part because I was disappointed with my bacon options in most grocery stores and I began to wonder if there was a better alternative. My entry into curing and smoking began when I realized that, even as a consumer, I could buy pork belly from pasture-raised, antibiotic-, and hormone-free pork that has been fed an all-organic diet and make the bacon myself.

Let’s Make Bacon!

There are tons of curing and smoking books out on the market, and to get started, I tried to get my hands on as many of them as possible. After familiarizing myself with the techniques and learning the ins and outs of cures, brines, woods, and smokers, I was ready to try out the simple recipe listed below. Once I felt comfortable executing this basic recipe, I actually modified it to fit my own tastes and create a version of bacon that manages to be both sweet and savory, and just a touch ‘spicy.’ Trust me – once you master this recipe, you’ll also be experimenting in no time!

My basic bacon recipe (based on Michael Ruhlman’s ‘Charcuterie’ recipe):

  • 1 5lb boneless, skinless pork belly
  • 2 oz kosher salt
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • 0.25 oz pink salt (aka Curing Salt #1)
  • 4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons five-spice powder (available at most supermarkets)


  1. Trim the pork belly so that it is roughly square or rectangular shaped.
  2. Thoroughly mix the salts, sugar, and spices in a bowl.
  3. Place the trimmed belly on a large baking sheet and rub the spice mixture all over the belly. The mixture should be applied evenly and liberally to all surfaces of the belly.
  4. Transfer the spice-rubbed belly to a large Ziploc bag (1 or 2 gallon size), seal the bag, and place in the refrigerator for 5 days. Any extra cure can be placed in the bag and rubbed all over the pork.
  5. Allow the pork belly to cure for 5 days in the refrigerator. I like to flip over the Ziploc bag every day to continue distributing the cure evenly around the meat, but that’s totally optional.
  6. After 5 days, remove the belly from the bag and rinse it thoroughly under cold water. Allow the belly to dry on a towel uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. When it’s time to smoke your bacon the next day, I prefer to smoke exclusively over a 50/50 mix of apple and cherry wood, which will lend a subtle sweetness to the final bacon. I aim for a temperature of 180-190 degrees F inside the smoker, and I smoke the bacon until its internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F (roughly 4 hours in my charcoal smoker).
  8. At this point, the bacon is ready to eat. However, I suggest you resist the temptation and instead allow it to cool in the refrigerator overnight before slicing it the next day. Once sliced, it can be pan-fried and cooked as crispy as you like. Oh, and don’t forget to save your bacon fat! It’s great for cooking many things, including eggs, vegetables, and potatoes, and can also be especially useful when making cornbread and biscuits.

Here are a few things to note in this recipe. Allow a week to make bacon (it will be worth the wait, I promise). Also, the salt and sugar are listed as weights (as opposed to volumes) per every 5lbs of pork belly, thus allowing precise controls of these two major inputs. Because it is less dense, kosher salt weighs a lot less per cup than table salt, and even then there can be variances between brands. The same goes for sugar – a cup of brown sugar will not weigh the same as a cup of honey or maple syrup.

This recipe is also easily scaled if you plan on making more than 5lbs of bacon at a time, which you may have to once your friends and family taste how good homemade bacon can be!

A grand encyclopedia of country Old Time Wisdom: ,  weather wisdom, country remedies and herbal cures, cleaning solutions, pest purges, firewood essentials, adobe making and bricklaying, leather working, plant dyes, farm foods, natural teas and tonics, granola, bread making, beer brewing and winemaking, jams and jellies, canning and preserving, sausage making and meat smoking, drying foods, down-home toys, papermaking, candle crafting, homemade soaps and shampoos,  butter and cheese making, fishing and hunting secrets, and much more. Old Time Wisdom:: Traditional Skills for Simple Living

Books can be your best pre-collapse investment.

Carnivore’s Bible (is a wellknown meat processor providing custom meat processing services locally andacross the state of Montana and more. Whether your needs are for domestic meator wild game meat processing)

The Lost Book of Remedies PDF ( contains a series of medicinal andherbal recipes to make home made remedies from medicinal plants and herbs.Chromic diseases and maladies can be overcome  by taking the remediesoutlined in this book. The writer claims that his grandfather was taughtherbalism and healing whilst in active service during world war twoand that he has treated many soldiers with his home made cures. )

Easy Cellar(Info about building and managing your root cellar, plus printable plans. The book on building and using root cellars – The Complete Root Cellar Book.)

The Lost Ways (Learn the long forgotten secrets that helped our forefathers survive famines,wars,economic crisis and anything else life threw at them)

LOST WAYS 2 ( Wordof the day: Prepare! And do it the old fashion way, like our fore-fathers did it and succeed longbefore us,because what lies ahead of us will require all the help we can get. Watch this video and learn the 3 skills that ensured our ancestors survival in hard times offamine and war.)

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